The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off next week, and due to the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks are loaded with the most draft capital they've had in the last decade, including the ninth overall pick, their first Top 10 pick since 2010, John Schneider and Pete Carroll's first draft in Seattle.
With eight total picks, including three in the top 41 and four in the top 72, the Seahawks are looking to use this year's draft to help reach Carroll's stated goal of building "the most competitive roster in the NFL."
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to help our franchise, which is what we're here to do," Carroll said of the 2022 and 2023 draft capital acquired in the Wilson trade. "We're doing everything we can to make it as good as we can possibly make it.
"We've got to make this the most competitive roster in the NFL, that's what we're out to do, and that means all the way through the ranks. That means you're going to get young, but we're going to mix it with a group of experienced players as well. That's the chemistry we have to create."
With the draft coming up soon, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand for the Seahawks, as well as the top draft prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position over the past 12 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.
So far, we've covered quarterback, safety, receiver, cornerback and tight end, and today we turn our attention to linebacker. Check back tomorrow when we take a look at where things stand at running back.
Seattle's 2022 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 9 overall; Round 2, No. 40 overall; Round 2, No. 41 overall; Round 3, No. 72 overall; Round 4, No. 109 overall; Round 5, No. 145 overall; Round 5, No. 153 overall; Round 7, No. 229 overall.
Linebacker Draft History Under Carroll & Schneider: K.J. Wright (No. 99 overall, 2011); Malcolm Smith (No. 243, 2011); Bobby Wagner (No. 46, 2012); Korey Toomer (No. 154, 2012); Ty Powell (No. 231, 2013); Kevin Pierre-Louis (No. 132, 2014); Shaquem Griffin (No. 141, 2018); Jacob Martin (No. 186, 2018); Cody Barton (No. 88, 2019); Ben Burr-Kirven (No. 142, 2019); Jordyn Brooks (No. 27, 2020).
Where The Seahawks Stand
For the first time in a decade, the Seahawks will field a defense without Bobby Wagner at middle linebacker, so things will indeed look different when players take the field for offseason workouts this spring, then later for training camp.
But with Jordyn Brooks emerging as a budding star last season, recording a franchise record 183 tackles along with 10 tackles for loss, and with Cody Barton playing well in place of an injured Wagner late in the season, the Seahawks have a lot to be excited about at linebacker even if it's a different looking group (and for the sake of this article, we're focusing on off-ball linebackers. We'll look at the pass-rushing outside linebackers and edge rushers when we cover the defensive line later in the week).
The Seahawks also return Ben Burr-Kirven and Jon Rhattigan, both of whom are coming off of season-ending knee injuries, versatile linebacker and fullback Nick Bellore, as well as Tanner Muse, former third-round pick of the Raiders who split time last season between the practice squad and 53-man roster. In free agency, the Seahawks added former Bears linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, a player who so far has made his mark on special teams, but who signed with Seattle in part because of the chance to compete for a more significant role on defense.
Brooks will undoubtedly hold down one of the off-ball starting linebacker spots, and as things currently stand, Barton figures to be the leading candidate for the other spot, with Iyiegbuniwe and others pushing him there. But with a franchise icon moving on this offseason, there's a real possibility the Seahawks look to add more to that position group this offseason, quite possibly with one of their eight draft picks.
Rob Rang's Top 5 Off-Ball Linebackers
Much has been written about this year's potentially historic talent along the defensive line and in the secondary, overshadowing a talented and very deep linebacker crop. It is this depth of this year's class, in fact, that really stands and could allow teams to invest their earliest picks elsewhere, knowing that potential rookie starters might still be on the board well into Day Two. Even with Jordyn Brooks seemingly on a path to stardom, releasing Bobby Wagner this spring on the heels of parting ways a year ago with K.J. Wright means that the Seahawks will almost certainly be drafting a linebacker from this group, perhaps quite early. Might the Seahawks consider adding another Ute in Devin Lloyd to challenge his former Utah teammate, Cody Barton? How the Seahawks feel about Barton, as well as the recoveries from serious knee injuries to both Ben Burr-Kirven and Jon Rhattigan, could dictate just how early and often Seattle focuses on this position.
1. Devin Lloyd, Utah, 6-3, 237, 4.66, First Round
A star the past three seasons for Utah, Lloyd took his game to another level in 2021, pushing the Utes to a PAC-12 title and the Rose Bowl with a scintillating all-around performance that included career-highs in tackles (111), tackles for loss (22), sacks (seven) and interceptions (four), earning him the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Frankly, had he played in the SEC or Big Ten, Lloyd might have generated the kind of buzz to be invited to New York for at least a little Heisman consideration. He's seen action at all three linebacker roles and should be able to immediately play wherever his future team needs him most, possessing a rare combination of size and speed, as well as physicality and awareness in coverage.
2. Nakobe Dean, Georgia, 5-11, 229, 4.50 (est.), First/Second Round
As good as Lloyd was for the Utes, it was Dean's Bulldogs, of course, who won the national title and that was very much due to a defense NFL scouts told me months ago might be historic, with every single starter ultimately likely to be drafted into the league. Dean, a true junior, was the leader of Georgia's defense and generated all sorts of attention for his stellar play, winning the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker with 72 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, six sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions, including one against Florida he returned 50 yards for a touchdown. Dean is shorter than ideal but he's tough and greased lightning to the flanks in run support and in coverage.
3. Channing Tindall, Georgia, 6-2, 230, 4.47, Second Round
Tindall patiently waited his turn at Georgia, finally getting the chance to start as a senior and taking full advantage, jumping from 41 combined tackles over his first three seasons to 67 as a senior with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. These statistics don't do his speed and agility justice, however, though the 4.47-second 40-yard dash and 42" vertical jump he posted at the Combine come close. His impressive Combine workout came on the heels of a terrific week at the Senior Bowl. An exciting and ascending talent whose best football should be in front of him.
4. Christian Harris, Alabama, 6-1, 226, 4.44, Second Round
While perhaps not quite as polished as some of the star linebackers from Alabama during the Nick Saban era, Harris certainly qualifies as a Crimson Tide-caliber athlete, pacing the Combine's true off-ball linebackers in both the 40-yard dash and the broad jump (11'0). Harris dutifully handled middle linebacker last year and may make strides with more experience inside, but he's a classic run and chase hitter who could become a monster in the NFL if allowed to more freely roam.
5. Leo Chenal, Wisconsin, 6-3, 250, 4.53, Second Round
Chenal flashed in 2020, his first year as a starter, but few anticipated that he'd more than double his previous production (115 tackles, including 18.5 for loss and eight sacks in 2021) and emerge as the top linebacker in the Big Ten – a conference which has always prided itself on this most iconic position in the game. Chenal is a traditional Big Ten linebacker in that he plays with an old school frame and mentality, bludgeoning would-be blockers in the hole and taking down ballcarriers efficiently. He certainly showed new school speed at the Combine, however, which could have Chenal (pronounced sha-NELL) smelling like roses on draft weekend.
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies linebacker prospects the Seahawks could target in the 2022 NFL Draft.